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Shortcut to Hell: Amir Khan W12 Marcos Maidana


Amir Khan underwent a trial by inferno against pitiless Marcos Maidana last night at the Mandalay Bay Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada, notching a unanimous decision in a spiteful war that left both fighters battered, spent, bruised, and ennobled. Both men punished each other–with a fervor–throughout the fight.

It looked like it might be a short night when Khan, now 24-1 (17), dropped Maidana with about 20 seconds remaining in the first round, stabbing a perfect left to the ribs that crumpled Maidana to the canvas, his face contorted in pain.

After being chased around the ring for the first minute of the fight, Khan began to open up and landed a stinging right uppercut that checked Maidana, who falls to 29-2 (27), neatly. But the body shot he hit Maidana with was a thing of terrible beauty. Maidana is nothing if not a hardcase, however, and he rose grimly, prepared to meet his fate, or, if possible, alter it. Unfortunately for Khan, the bell rang shortly after the mandatory eight, and Maidana trudged back to his corner and to a brief respite on the stool.

Brief because Khan, Lancashire, United Kingdom, whacked Maidana around the ring in the second round. He simply had too many tools for Maidana early, controlling the ring with footwork and snapping off rapid-fire combinations that left Maidana in the dust. Indeed, Khan looked like he could break the sound barrier compared to his foe.

But Maidana, Buenos Aires, Argentina, operates on the principle of cumulative damage and spends most of his time in the ring trying to figure out how he can grind his opponent into fine particles. With that in mind, Maidana advanced with menace, cut off the ring from time to time, and whenever Joe Cortez, whose recent induction into the Hall of Fame belies his incompetence, allowed him to use a free hand he worked Khan over easily on the inside. Maidana, 139, also landed a whistling right in the third and pounded Khan against the ropes, but Khan, 140, outboxed him for the most part, using his sharp jab to keep Maidana off-balance, and flitting from side to side to make sure Maidana was swinging at a moving target.

In the fourth, Khan worked well but stayed in range for too long at one point. All Maidana needs is a man to stand in front of him for more than a few seconds. In that brief moment, Maidana scored with a vicious, fever dream combination: a right uppercut, a left hook to the body, two left uppercuts to the point of the chin, a left hook to the head, and a right uppercut to the jaw. Khan, it should be noted, took the punishment well, and even managed to draw first blood: Maidana suffered a small cut by his right eye as the round drew to a close.

In the fifth, Joe Cortez inexplicably deducted a point from Maidana for an errant elbow. It was apparently aimed at Cortez. Only Maidana, however, knows what his intentions were at that moment. Perhaps Maidana, unlike many of the other fighters frustrated by the ineptitude of a third man who never fails to hinder one of the participants in the ring, decided to take matters into his own hands.

Cortez, who likes to lean against, grapple with, and drape himself on fighters, somehow found himself behind the roughhousing Maidana when the elbow caught him on the shoulder. If only Cortez could find himself in a nice retirement community down in Fort Lauderdale one of these days, where he can mar shuffleboard games and bingo matches willy-nilly instead of fouling up prizefights. Boxers simply work too hard—and the stakes are too high—to see their efforts continually blighted by an official who is nearly always in a panic.

Particularly disturbing is how Cortez seems unable to function whenever two fighters are working in close. Not only does he not know when to break fighters, he fails to do it properly, diving into the fray shouting “Okay! All right! Okay!” or some other gibberish. Sometimes he says nothing at all and merely lumbers forth, arms outstretched, like Imhotep as played by Boris Karloff. Occasionally, his commands are in Spanish even if both fighters are Russian, say, or the last of the ring WASPS. Many times Cortez seemed to break the fighters just when Maidana was in the middle of some serious work in the ring. Indeed, Maidana, 27, was poorly served by a referee who has been over the hill for so long, he might be halfway to China by now.

It certainly made things harder for Maidana, who already had his hands full against a young fighter trying to prove a slew of critics wrong. Although Maidana pressed relentlessly and landed his share of shots, Khan, 24, was showing speed and skill throughout the fifth and sixth.

In the seventh, Maidana pummeled Khan around the ring, at one point landing another otherworldly combination: a double left uppercut followed by a left hook to the body. Despite his often crude approach to boxing, Maidana has the kind of violent imagination that only a real prizefighter has. It served him well from time to time, but Khan dominated the eighth and ninth rounds, unleashing his own uppercut on a leaning Maidana and dropping hard rights over the top with regularity. It looked like Khan had finally taken complete control of the fight.

And then hell came for him when the 10th round rolled around.

About a minute into the frame, Maidana connected with a overhand right that left Khan looking like a man with Restless Legs Syndrome. Khan was clearly hurt, and Maidana pursued him in a frenzy, ripping uppercuts, hooks, larrups, and haymakers with both hands. As Maidana chased him down from one end of the ring to the other, whipsawing punches from either side, Khan looked on the verge of being stopped on several occasions.

At one point, Khan, in a fog, raised his arms during the onslaught to indicate his hardiness; another time, he dropped them by his sides and took ripping shots from a noted puncher. Uppercuts and hard body shots appeared to have Khan on the verge of wilting many times, but moxie pulled him through and he somehow survived a pillar-to-post pasting that lasted nearly two minutes. Khan showed incredible heart getting through the 10th, even fighting back at one point before Maidana ill-treated him all over again.

By the end of the round, however, Maidana looked as tired as a man in the 257th hour of a marathon dance. It was a draining round for both fighters, but it was Khan who staggered to his corner with a bloody nose. Khan danced early in the 11th to keep Maidana at bay, but, despite his exhaustion, the onrushing Argentine continued hurling stones from strange expressionist angles. What little technique he had, however, unraveled further with the effects of fatigue. Khan countered a wide open Maidana with a lashing right uppercut, and moments later added a flashy combination to show he was not ready to concede just yet. Maidana stalked implacably, however, and had Khan pinned against the ropes in the final twenty seconds of the round.

Not long after the two touched gloves to start the 12th, Maidana slipped back into his favorite role as juggernaut and pounded Khan with uppercuts and hooks to the body in close. Wobbly against the ropes, Khan looked like he was in dire straits again before getting some distance and unloading a blistering combination. A bloodied Khan flurried at the end of the 12th to punctuate a cruel final quarter of a grueling thrill ride of a fight.

With the win, Khan proved a resilience many speculated he might have lacked, and Maidana, with the loss, proved that he is nearly inhuman. Both men, together, proved that the strange dignity prizefighters show during harrowing moments in the ring is something a world apart from you and me, something to admire, yes, and to fear simultaneously.

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  • johnpaulfutbol


    That ended up being a pretty entertaining fight. I’m not at all surprised that Khan won, but somewhat surprised how it all went down. I didn’t think Khan’s chin would be the problem…at least to the extent that the dudes in the forums make it. But, I didn’t think that he’d hold up if Maidana was able to land like he did last night. I was completely unfair to Maidana going in, he’s certainly flawed technically…but not to the extent I claimed, he also has intangibles that negate some of those flaws. Khan surviving that was pretty impressive in it’s way. I’d tap him to beat Bradley or Alexander at this point, then of course I’d pencil him at # 2 or # 3 in JPF’s P4P rankings!

    Cortez! What can you say about that guy? I wanted Khan to win, but c’mon! You gotta allow some infighting. Funny though, a lot of the people complaining about Cortez breaking them last night are the same Floyd yahoos that don’t mention it in regards to Mayweather/Hatton.

    I’m not really a Khan fan per se, but started rooting for him when the criticism started bordering on the insane. Khan has chin issues/questions for sure, but some of these jackoffs are just repeating stuff they heard the adults saying.

    • Carlos Acevedo

      Hi JPF,

      yeah, that was a lot of fun. Khan showed a lot of mettle and Maidana really is a monster, not the best boxer on earth, but a vicious, relentless living nightmare. That work he does when in close–short punches to every part of the anatomy–is ruinous to anyone who wants to try to clinch.

      I don’t count myself as a Khan detractor, but I’ve never been sold. He proved a lot last night, but that doesn’t mean he’s taking over the world. In fact, since Maidana was his toughest fight (the Prescott fight wasn’t a fight!), he showed some flaws that don’t pop up when you smack up Oisin Fagin. That standing still with arms held up in front of his face when he doesn’t know what to do is a major flaw, I would say. He also stands too straight up when flurrying and sometimes seems only to be moving his arms. But he’s athletic, fast, and, when he sets himself, does punch pretty hard. I don’t think Alexander or Bradley beats Khan, but Bradley would have a better chance.

      I don’t think much of Maidana’s technique, but like you said, he makes up for it with a violent heart. Did you see how he kept trying to punch through Cortez whenever Cortez would stick his ridiculous self in between the fighters for no apparent reason?

      As for Cortez, he has to go. Referring is a hard job–with a lot at stake, i.e., death or maiming–so it makes sense to weed out the lesser talents and Cortez is incompetent, at least on that level. I wasn’t around to teach bloggers and “journalists” how to write better (heh) when Mayweather-Hatton took place, but I did watch it with some friends and we were all outraged by Cortez…shouting at the television, etc. He simply doesn’t know what to do when one guy gets close to the other. Did you see the ref for the Mares fight? When they got close or mauled a little, the ref would say “box out,” and if they didn’t he would break them. And this guy’s from Washington! If Khan wants to be safe on the inside and Maidana wants to fight/punch, then Maidana gets the right of way. Instead, Cortez was all over him. How many times did he actually grab Maidana? And that elbow was not aimed at Khan, IMO, because Khan was three feet away. Maidana seemed to be in raging bull mode when, all of a sudden, he feels someone jumping on his back! He’s like, “Get the fuck off of me!” I have special, omniscient insight into this subject because I lived in the Bronx for 25 years. You don’t want anyone sneaking up behind you in the BX!

      • johnpaulfutbol


        Yeah, great points regarding Khan’s flaws. I just don’t see anybody on his radar that will take advantage of them. And that’s not because I think Khan is a world beater, I just don’t believe the Jr. Welter’s are enjoying a “golden age” as adverstised.

        Living in the Bronx for 25yrs. is a hell of a credential. Somewhat like having a Master’s Degree from the School of Hard Knocks. You can’t get those online.

        • Carlos Acevedo

          Hi JPF,

          I think Khan’s a little too mobile and fast for most of the current Golden Age of jr. welterweights. I think Bradley is smart enough to come up with a plan and stick to it, which is why I give him the best chance, but, of course he has to get by “The Barking Man,” Devon Alexander, first.

          Living in the Bronx gave me one thing suitable for TCS: zero tolerance for trolls!

  • elstriko

    Mayne that was two great pieces on one great fight. I must say it fights like that make boxing compelling and fun. In your opinion is Khan ready for the next level? I thank mentally he needs to mature but he has all of the tools in place

    • Carlos Acevedo

      Hi elstriko,

      Thanks for checking in. That fight was definitely a humdinger.

      I think Khan is near that next level just because he happens to be a top, if not the top, junior welterweight right now. Only Tim Bradley competes with him for that distinction. Beating Maidana and Kotelnik (much more easily than Alexander did) gives him a better recent run than the other fellows. And Dimitri Salita, whom Khan blasted out in about a minute, is not a bad scalp to have on your resume. Salita, whom I’ve seen live a few times, is no Benny Leonard, but Khan walked right through him. On the other hand, Khan has a number of flaws that might be exploited by world-class fighters who devise a neat gameplan against him. He does stand up a little too straight, does drop his left hand occasionally, and has absolutely no inside game whatsoever. Not to detract from Khan, who showed talent, pizazz, and courage against Maidana, but if Joe Cortez had not been the referee, trouble might have been knocking at his door a lot earlier than the 10th round. Still, he’s got speed, power, athleticism, footwork, and stamina. Right now he’s a promising fighter who, as you said, needs a little more seasoning.

  • funkybadger

    Got to say I’m a bit intimidated by this new evil(er) Carlos… hope this comment holds up.

    An excellent article, stepping up the big occasion to borrow a cliche. Thanks!

    Still trying to track down a “version” of the fight to enjoy, the brief highlights I’ve seen are startling, first Khan’s blistering speed (and that liver shot!) – he looks incredible when he slips a shot then fires back in combo (if/when he learns to pitter-patter with the first two or three shots then really sit down on the third… ouch)…

    More than a little toughness – and luck – to get through the fires in the tenth as well. Don’t think anyone would have complained about a stoppage.

    Strange to say, but the slowest thing about him seems to be his brain. Which sounds worse than I mean – I think he reacts likea lot of fighters, it just his hands and feet are moving like the best. But there’s only one “active” fighter who thinks as fast as he punches at that level…

    • Carlos Acevedo

      Hi funkybadger,

      well, TCS has always been a little, umm, edgy. Cyber-trolls get off on what they think is public humiliation by hurling malice at a writer or blogger and I’ve decided to reverse that situation by denying them the frisson they get when they see their vitriol in “print.” They see my wrath instead! I’ve approved/disapproved comments here since August 2009, when a slew of idiots objected to my picking Steven Luevano to beat Bernie Concepcion. Me being evil is only part of the equation!

      Thanks for the compliment. It was astonishing to see Maidana get up from that body shot; the man was in agony, but he showed what he’s made of by beating the count and pushing Khan to the limit. Lampley was funny: “And he is not going to get up!!!” Pause. “He is going to get up!!!!”

      Luck is part of boxing, too, in a way, although prizefighters more often forge their own destinies in the ring; it’s this existentialist motif that attracts me to boxing. Boxers manufacture their selves from moment to moment in a fight and seeing them reveal their true characters in the ring is something that fascinates me. Although Khan was, in a way, lucky to make it out of the 10th, he also could have yielded at any time and refused to do so.

      Khan, to me, is not a finished product, but he’s definitely a talent worth seeing. One of the attributes Khan has, which I’ve failed to mention, I think, is his size: this is a very big junior welterweight whose quickness and combination punching is compounded by his physical advantages. I agree with you on his ring IQ, to an extent, there is a certain amount of skittishness to his moves, as if he needs to work things out first in his mind beforehand. This business of reaching out with both hands to push an aggressive opponent way is going to leave him flat on his back one day. Incredibly amateurish move, and the last time I saw that was when Hasim Rahman did it to Lennox Lewis in their rematch. That didn’t work out too well for The Rock.

      Even so, it will be fun to watch Khan’s career.